JC Penney and the Golden Rule

This is the day that … James Cash Penney was born near Hamilton, Missouri in 1875 in Missouri, USA, son of a Primitive Baptist preacher.

At age 8 he was buying his own clothes and earning his own money for his needs. He was taught scrupulous honesty by his minister father.

At the age of 27 (1902) he had opened his first store, the Golden Rule Store, in Wyoming. And it was so named because he was committed to building his business “on bedrock Christian ethics”.

And build he did. Five years later he owned three stores, then, by 1912, he had 34 stores with sales of over $2 million. In 1913 he changed the store name to J.C. Penney Co.

“From 1917 to 1929 the business exploded, growing to nearly 1400 stores nationwide” (More Than Conquerors, Moody Press, page 342).

In the stock market crash of 1929 he lost $40 million. There followed a time of failed health and convalescence in a sanatorium. Here he experienced a “spiritual renewal” – at the age of 56. He heard someone playing hymns on the organ, so he walked in there, bowed down and said, ‘Lord, I’m giving my life to You’. Once more began his climb up the business ladder. The J.C. Penney Company began to flourish once more.

Penney was a man of strict principal, who refused all drink and tobacco and “For many years anyone who used tobacco and liquor was discharged” (page 342). He became convinced (internally “convicted”) that, even in debt and poverty, he should tithe to God. By 1990 sales topped $18 million.

When he died at the age of 95 the New York Times commented that Penney’s adherence to the Golden Rule had “aroused scepticism in a mercenary age” … but the success of his business “put the lie to the cynics”. He left a 1,660-store empire that he built without compromising the stiff principles he had absorbed from three generations of Baptist preacher ancestors.

“I believe in adherence to the Golden Rule, faith in God and the country,” he often said. “I would rather be known as a Christian than a merchant.”

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Of Lords and Monarchs

Who is ruling you impacts who you can become. So take a moment or two to audit your own allegiances and discover your limitations.

Christians are familiar with the confession, “Jesus Christ is Lord”. That is a key element of personal salvation. Those who wish to be saved by the life and ministry of Jesus Christ must confess Him as Lord of their life. That brings them salvation.

“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9

Making that statement as a true confession can only be done with the assistance of the Holy Spirit.

“….. no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Spirit.” 1Corinthians 12:3b

The problem for people is that they are entangled with many different lords and monarchs, without realising it. The process of coming under Christ’s Lordship, then, is not as straight forward as one simple confession. It must be real and it usually involves a progressive revoking of other sovereignties along the way.

Many Lords

God’s people are frequently entangled with mixed allegiances and other lords who exercise some level of rule in or over their lives. The prophet Isaiah identified this in his prophecies.

“O LORD our God, other lords beside you have had dominion over us: but by you only will we make mention of your name.” Isaiah 26:13

Note Isaiah’s candid admission that God’s people have had other lords ruling over them. He also recognises that only God will be able to deliver them into a pure allegiance only to Him.

This is the predicament of most Christians. They are in practice polytheistic. My son, Stephen, goes so far as to speak of a Pantheon of idols which each culture gives allegiance to. Christians in western culture still hold most the west’s deities dear in their hearts. These other deities are lords which rule over the Christian, despite the confession of Christ as Lord.

Western Idolatry

The west idolises success, money, education, sex, materialism, fame, self-will and independence as just some of its cultural values. These are idols that are worshiped. Some people give their whole life to the pursuit of these things.

When people become Christians they will likely still continue to worship these cultural values. They will worship them as idols. And that brings them under dominion and lordship of those things.

How We Get Lords

When we worship something or give in to something outside of God’s moral order we become enslaved by it. It may be sin or an idol that we worship.

“Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say to you, Whosoever commits sin is the servant of sin.” John 8:34

“Don’t you know that whoever you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are to whom you obey; whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness?” Romans 6:16

God is Our Only King

Christians only have one king, The Lord God. Jesus and Almighty God are one God and so I could also rightly say that Jesus Christ is our only King.

Christians in the early church refused to bow to the Roman Caesar, saying that they had only one King and that was God. This put them at odds with the ruling power, since it proclaimed Caesar to be a god.

In the early days of the nation of Israel God ruled over the people through His agents the prophets and judges. God was their king. When the people demanded a human king God specifically noted that the people were rejecting Him from the place of their king.

“And the LORD said to Samuel, Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to you: for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” 1Samuel 8:7

Replacing God as King

When we seek anything or anyone else to rule over us other than God, Himself, we are rejecting Him from the rightful place as King of our life. If we worship money or success, or chase relationships, fame or popularity, we are rejecting God. We are replacing Him as King, with another.

By that means we end up with many lords who have sovereignty over us. But we have not only offended and rejected God we have denied ourselves our own personal sovereignty.

Voiding Our Sovereignty

We have incredible personal sovereignty as subjects of the Living God. If the God who created all things is your King, and you have a direct line of succession from Him, then you are about as sovereign an entity as anything could be. You have pretty impressive personal privilege when you answer directly to God and Christ. That is exactly what we do as Christians.

We are not under the lordship of priests, pastors or church leaders. We are not under the lordship of temporal kings and government masters. Kings and governments serve our social existence, but we do not answer to them. Since the Roman days and back 1,500 years before then, to the days when Moses withstood the King of Egypt, we answer, as God’s servants, directly to God, Himself.

So when we choose to worship any intermediary sovereign, or come under the lordship of any other person or thing we are voiding our sovereignty. When you worship money you decimate your personal rights before God. You subordinate yourself to something lower than yourself. The same is true when you worship success, fame, political ambitions, career, relationships or people who you revere.

Worship anything but God at your peril!

Revelation of God

If you were raised in the fear of some idolatrous and despotic deity how would that affect your understanding of the true and Living God? If you only knew of gods as demanding, enslaving, capricious and cruel would you readily understand the God who is “love”?

I was recently blessed by the testimony of Meng, a lovely woman of God who helped me focus these thoughts. I asked her for her notes so I could share her thoughts with you and spring into some of my own observations as well.

She shared something of her testimony recently and drew attention to Jesus asking His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (See Matthew 16:13-19). The significance for her is that her own vision of God has had to be expanded, progressively over the years, to open her heart and understanding to the wonder of the God who is her Father. We all have a head knowledge of who God is and can recite some of His numerous titles. In response to the question of who Jesus is, we could all say, “Messiah”, “King of Kings”, “Saviour” and so on. Yet we could easily say those things out of head knowledge, like facts learned for a school exam, rather than truths that burn deep into us.

Peter had a revelation of who Jesus is. “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”. And Jesus commended Peter for receiving ‘revelation’, since such knowledge of Christ came from God, not from Peter’s own analysis or his discussions with others.

Now, in Meng’s case, having come from an Asian religious background, her understanding of God was tainted by her existing concepts of what a deity is. She described her situation quite poetically, in the allegory of serving the gods of Egypt in her former life of slavery to sin. I let you read it as she put it.

“Before I came into the Kingdom of God, I served under the gods of this world. I was in bondage in Egypt and I served under the god, Pharaoh. As his slave I had to work long and hard to please my master and when I didn’t work hard enough, Pharaoh, my taskmaster, would punish me. I was made to feel guilty and I was compared to others who outperformed me. My god was my taskmaster. I had to work for acceptance – and although I worked very hard for it I still didn’t get it. No matter how hard I worked, it was never enough – my only reward was to work harder. That was all I knew about god and gods.

When I was set free from Egypt, I brought the same concept of God out with me. I left the slavery of Egypt but I still have traces of Egypt in the way I live in the promise land.”

Meng testified to how she has lived under a performance syndrome, having to push herself to do her best, in the vain quest for acceptance. As a Christian she continued with the impetus to please God, as if He too demanded excessive striving before He would accept her.

What set Meng free from that former concept of God were the truth of God’s Word and an ever deepening revelation of God. Isaiah 55:1 blessed her as it reveals how God’s wonderful graces and abundant benefits don’t come because we can earn them. Christ in us makes us acceptable to God, not our own vain efforts.

The anointing of the Holy Spirit and the showering of God’s love in her heart (Romans 5:5) have been rich healing streams, releasing her to embrace the revelation of God as her ‘papa’ who she can snuggle close to, just as a child would to her daddy. Relationship is replacing performance. Being a child of God and a ‘friend’ of God (as Moses was) are transforming revelations. Being the bride to our heavenly bridegroom, Jesus, is also a strong relationship revelation. And in it all Meng is enjoying an ever deepening hunger to know God, to enjoy a powerful revelation of who He is and to go into richer and sweeter relationship with Him.

So, who do you say that Jesus is?

Notice that Peter’s heightened revelation of Christ resulted in him being given new destiny. Jesus blessed Peter and prophesied great authority for him. That’s what comes from an increasing revelation of God. We are transformed by every new insight we have into who God is.

The surest way for you to become like Christ and to be transformed from the inside out is to get a clearer and deeper revelation of God. Those old religious ideas may have become a strong-hold in your heart and mind. I have met people who can only think of God as a fearsome God of judgement. They cannot accept the truth of God’s love and grace.

Your past concepts of who and what God is may well be robbing you of your spiritual growth. And your ideas of what a father is, based on your childhood experiences, may also be blocking your acceptance of God as a loving Heavenly Father. The false teachings of various groups may have infected your thinking.

I recommend that you read the Bible with eyes to see the rich depth of God’s reality and the awesome grace and love which He possesses, along with His holiness, authority and power. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and relationship with God is the outcome of His salvation. I pray that you, like Meng, have an ever increasing longing for intimacy with the God of all eternity.

Hurt Spirits Picnic

How would it be if a bunch of smelly, spiteful, murderous and hateful creatures were having a picnic on your lounge-room floor? How would it be if a bunch of ‘hurt spirits’ regularly turned your home into their picnic ground? Well, that’s what a lot of marriages allow to happen.

I talked before about how Hurt Spirits work in marriages (see: Hurt Spirits Working). The spirit stirs up hurt feelings in one or other of the spouses, prompting them to act out of that hurt. The spouse may be prompted to pout, withdraw, accuse, manipulate, contend, be angry or whatever. As soon as the ‘hurt’ spouse begins to behave like that, especially out of their own hurt feelings, their actions cause hurt in the other spouse. Thus the cycle of hurt is ignited and the relationship is set on a course of destruction and pain.

I believe that this process is epidemic in marriages today and most couples, including Christian couples who should know better, get caught in this ‘device’ of the enemy. We are not supposed to be ignorant concerning the enemy’s devices, but this one seems to have slipped in and caught many couples in the trap of celebrating their pain.

What the hurt spirits want to do is to move in to your home and host picnics in your kitchen, lounge-room, bedrooms and so on. They want to turn your home into a pain-filled picnic-ground where hurt spirits feel completely at home and can celebrate their evil influence over your marriage. The Hurt Spirits want to picnic at your place.

So, let me unpack for you what is really going on. The hurt spirits want to enshrine ‘hurt’ and hurt feelings as the top priority in the home. In a culture that is selfish and self-centred, that is easier than it would be in a godly culture. So, as the West becomes increasingly selfish, hurt spirits have a much easier time picking off the easy targets. There are more hurt spirit picnics these days than at times in the past.

Hurt spirits want to make ‘hurt’ the central theme of your home. So these spirits arouse feelings of hurt in marriages. They remind people that they are being neglected, misunderstood or offended. They point out that their spouse is not being what they wanted them to be. They stir up feelings of offence, frustration, disappointment and so on. As soon as a person buys into the hurt the next stage is to accentuate it until it becomes a central issue for that person, not just a passing feeling.

As the couples begin to fight with each other and hurt each other the stage is set for the home to be polarised by hurt feelings. The couple may withdraw from each other, only heightening the feelings of hurt they each carry. They may play ‘no speaks’, or one or other may become demanding, contentious, angry, resentful, or the like. Before long the unresolved hurt feelings have become king in the home.

No progress seems possible until the huge burden of hurt can be dealt with. Yet the mountain of hurt feelings is SO enormous that it would take a giant person to be able to wade through it all. The marriage may end up just limping on, with both spouses making the most of the good moments and battening down for the stormy times.

Both husband and wife will desperately want their marriage healed, but the hurt spirit will continue to stoke the fires of hurt, frustration, offence, etc, to ensure that the barrier between the couple remains firm.

Now, that’s the enemy’s strategy. Would you like to know the solution? I think it’s remarkably simple and delightfully do-able.

First step toward breaking this cursed cycle is to recognise that it is going on. I explained to a couple recently that their problem is the action of a hurt spirit and they were able to make gains in their relationship from that very night. So, this article needs to be passed on to as many people as you can get it to, so couples recognise what they are really dealing with. For some, that very realisation will be liberating and allow them to move toward forgiveness and healing.

The second step is to dethrone the hurt. Hurt and hurt feelings are not meant to picnic in your home. They are not meant to be on the throne in your heart. They are not meant to have any place in your home or heart at all. If you keep them on the throne, demanding that they be placated, you will stay in slavery to their destructive work.

Much more worthy and noble things should be on the throne in your home and heart. Righteousness and the fear of God should be exalted in your home, not hurt feelings. Humility, submission, grace, love, peace, forgiveness, compassion, hope and joy are much more worthy things for centre stage than hurt can ever be.

As you dethrone hurt you now need to push past it, knocking it to the ground and walking all over it. When a hurt spirit jumps up and says, “You should despise your spouse”, knock that thing to the ground as you step toward your spouse and fulfil your godly calling in their life.

Husbands, press in to love your wife, while she is throwing hurt into your face. Wives, press in to submit to your husband while he is hurling hurt into your heart. Determine that you will be who God has created you to be and you will serve Him, not some dirty demon.

Don’t let the demons picnic at your place. When the hurt spirits turn up with their picnic basket, throw them out. And fall on your knees to worship the true and living God, not some filthy demon who hates you and your marriage. Don’t give in to their goading and their fear-filled stories of what will become of you if you don’t stand up for your rights and fight your spouse. Reject their taunts and the aroused emotions of your heart.

Be who God has made you to be and do what He wants you to do, whether you have hurt feelings or a heart of joy. As soon as you change course to accommodate hurt feelings you have elevated hurt above God and allowed the hurt spirits in with their picnic baskets. If you purpose to do what God asks you do to, no matter whether it is easy or hard or whether you are filled with joy or struggling with pain, you have dedicated your heart and home to God, and fortified it against evil spirits.

It is time to withstand the enemy’s scheme. It is time to resist him to his face. It is time to fight the demons, not our spouse. It is time to so worship God that we do what He asks us to do, despite the hurt feelings our situation prompts within us. Cast your care onto Him, don’t take arms against your spouse.

And let us celebrate the glorious liberty which God gives us as His children. Don’t let that bully who hates you have any place in your heart, home or marriage.

“Lord God, we ask You to empower us with wisdom and insight, to see the enemy’s hand at work and to resist him with all the authority of heaven. Lord, forgive us for elevating hurt feelings when You ask us to elevate forgiveness. Forgive us for fighting with our spouse, instead of fighting with the enemy. Forgive us for pressing on in our own strength, instead of working in Your power. Now, come and deliver us from all evil we pray, in Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Hurt Spirits Working

Some months ago I visited a family struggling to resolve marital issues. What I sensed there prompted me to explore a new approach to spiritual warfare for marriages and families.

In this case both husband and wife had claims and counter-claims against each other. The wife had various demands and her husband had various defences. He had evidence of her unreasonable behaviour, but she had justification for her actions. She had a case against him for his actions, while he had his own explanations for the situations.

I observed for a long time as this couple did verbal battle, both exasperated by the other. I silently prayed for wisdom and insight into how to best move their situation forward.

What came to my attention was that the couple had become pawns in a bigger game – and the key player was not the husband or the wife. The whole game was being controlled by a “Hurt Spirit”. Both husband and wife were drowning in their feelings of being hurt by the other. They then took aim at their spouse, as the source and cause of the hurt. The accusations and counter-claims only became bullets which created more hurt. The anger, frustration, accusations, justifications and so on, just kept adding fuel to the fire.

When I finally had opportunity to speak into the situation both husband and wife expected me to bring some clarity as to whose claims should be acceded to. Instead I had them join me in praying against the work of a hurt spirit. By that time the night was late and I did little more than take authority over the work of a hurt spirit in the marriage.

Within days I heard from the wife that the atmosphere in the home had been transformed from that very night. Both husband and wife have been growing in wisdom and grace since then and the relationship, while still challenged by many years of upset and hurt feelings, is stronger each week.

That has prompted me to wonder just how many marriages are being torn apart by a third party – not a person, but a hurt spirit. A hurt spirit, which is not anything defined as such in the Bible, but which I describe by that title because of its focus, aims to stir up feelings of offence in husband or wife. By arousing hurt feelings that spirit can goad a person to begin attacking their spouse, or acting toward them from a position of hurt.

Once that cycle has been started it can gain its own momentum, with the hurt spirit adding extra spin to the wheel from time to time. Eventually the couple can be completely at war with each other.

Now, consider Paul’s insight in such situations. He says that we are not wrestling and contending with each other, but with spirit forces at work around us. He says “we do not wrestle with flesh and blood (people) but against principalities, powers, rulers of darkness and spiritual wickedness (spirit beings)” Ephesians 6:12. So what I am describing to you about a hurt spirit is not as absurd as it might at first sound.

Join me in taking authority over the hurt spirits which have been messing with marriages and spoiling godly relationships. We have authority to bind them (Matthew 18:18). And if you have been messed with, make up your mind not to serve the hurt spirit any longer. Your marriage belongs to God and then to you and your spouse. It will never belong to a hurt spirit or any other kind of evil spirit. Resist the presence and influence of anything that is not fit to be in God’s presence.

“Hurt Spirits which are working in marriages, we bind you in Jesus’ powerful name and we command you to get your hands off husband and wives, hearts, minds and relationships. We resist you and your work in the lives of Christian marriages and we release healing and love to flow into each place where you have been doing your evil work. And we do this in the authority of the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”